To do list and not to do lists, now that is a question!

Before qualifying as a Life Coach I used to use “to do” lists to prioritise my tasks.  I didn’t realise it at the time but I wasn’t using them to their full potential.

I’d write my list out, give the task a high, medium or low priority and sometimes put a due date on them but my lists got too long. I would include, quite literally, everything I wanted to do!

This can still be a good thing to do but this is not what anyone would call an effective to do list. It’s too long. Theses lists worked up to a point but the biggest affect they had was to make me frustrated at rarely having a completed list.

So I started breaking my lists down. I have three. One for the things I wanted to do that week, one for the things I wanted to accomplish that month and a final with my yearly to do items. I kept these list going up until I started coaching and getting coached.

My coach, Niall English, a Dublin based coach I’d highly recommend, suggested I start a daily list. This list is written at the end of the working day and comprises of only the things I want or need to do the next day. More often than not I end the day with a completed list and no feelings of frustration. I still keep yearly list but this has changed from a to do list to a list of goals for the year. I no longer have my monthly because the daily list has made me more productive and made the monthly list obsolete.

Lets take this even further. In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang (“bright-dark” or “positive-negative”) describe how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, so what about a “not to do list”? This sounds a bit ridiculous doesn’t it? If you don’t want to do something you just don’t do it and don’t need to make a list about it. But what about a “stop doing” list? Are there things you do that you don’t need to do?

In “Good to Great” by Jim Collins he introduces the idea of Stop Doing lists and whether you’re a big company or self-employed it can really boost your productivity but how do you choose what goes on your Stop Doing list?

Next time your write a To Do list ask yourself “Does this item add any value to me or my company?” If the answer is no, it should go to the top of your stop doing list.

If you answered yes then ask “Am I really the best person to do this?” The first question tells you whether you can get rid of a task and this second question asks you whether you can give it to someone else to do. If you can then do. Even if means something a few hours training this person how to do this task it’ll benefit you in the long run so take the time do the training.

Try a to do list. You can download one of my simple ones here and after you’ve used it for a short while it’s worth designing your own to suit your own needs. Once you’re used to writing you’re used to writing your daily list starting looking at what you don’t need to do!

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